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Oval Four’s corrupt convictions finally quashed after nearly 50 years

(Posted on 11/12/19)

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Winston Trew, Sterling Christie, George Griffiths and Constantine Boucher – the Oval Four – spent eight nonths in prison in 1972 for attempting to steal handbags and assaulting a police officer.

Det Sgt Derek Ridgewell had set up a plain clothes police operation on the Northern Line. Eight years later, Ridgewell was jailed for conspiracy to steal from mailbags. He died of a heart attack in prison in 1982, at the age of 37.

After the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction, Winston Trew urged anyone wrongfully convicted through Ridgwell’s evidence to appeal: "If you are innocent, don't give up."

"Both the British Transport Police and the Home Office were warned about this police officer's corrupt methods in 1973,” lamented George Griffiths' solicitor Jenny Wiltshire, welcoming the appeal decision but considering it "deeply concerning that it has taken so long to happen.

"They did nothing except move him to a different unit, where he continued to offend so that by 1980 he was serving a seven-year prison sentence for theft."

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mrs Justice McGowan and Sir Roderick Evans, said it was "clear that these convictions are unsafe" from "an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by DS Ridgewell... and others of this specialist group

"We would wish only to note our regret that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied."

"It is a travesty that these men have waited 47 years for exoneration for crimes that they did not commit. Justice has now finally been done," declared Steven Bird, acting for Sterling Christie.

Winston Trew, now 69, has told of how his life was "shattered" when he was jailed: "My wife left me, I lost my confidence, I was a shell of the person I was before." After his release, he remarried and became a university lecturer and author, but had "never given up" trying to overturn his conviction.

Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher's conviction was not quashed as the CCRC were unable to find him.